[Involuntary psychiatric care for incarcerated people: a descriptive study of 73 consecutive judge-ordered discharges from psychiatric hospitalisation in France]

Encephale. 2022 Aug;48(4):480-483. doi: 10.1016/j.encep.2021.04.012. Epub 2021 Sep 16.
[Article in French]


Introduction: The procedure of involuntary psychiatric hospitalization has been recently modified in France. Indeed, since 2011, a liberty and custody judge is appointed for each measure, to guarantee the rights of psychiatric inpatients and to prevent abusive hospitalizations. As a result, if procedural errors are noted, the liberty and custody judge may order the immediate ending of the psychiatric hospitalization. To date, only two studies described the reasons for judiciary discharge from involuntary psychiatric hospitalizations, but no study has been conducted in forensic psychiatric units for incarcerated people. The objective of the current study was to describe the main reasons judges use to decide on the irregularity of the hospitalization (against the opinion of psychiatrists) for detained patients, and to compare these reasons with those for patients in the community psychiatric unit.

Methods: We included all the discharges ordered between 2011 and 2018 in two units of the same hospital: a forensic psychiatric unit for incarcerated people and a community involuntary psychiatric unit. We extracted sociodemographic characteristics and judiciary information such as date of discharge, resason fordischarge, presence of the patient at the hearing. We analyzed the judge-ordered discharge rate (corresponding to the number of discharges divided by the number of involuntary psychiatric hospitalizations) for each year. Then, we examined the reason of discharge for each measure.

Results: One hundred and forty-seven discharges were analyzed: 73 in the psychiatric forensic unit and 73 in the community psychiatric unit. Rates of discharges were 6.7% and 8.8% for the forensic unit and the general psychiatric unit, respectively. Several reasons for the discharges were common for the two units (failure to inform the patient, lack of physical examination), but others were specific to the forensic unit, such as the impossibility for the patients to communicate with their lawyer, or the lack of immediate dangerousness for the person or for the others.

Conclusion: This study highlights the specific aspects of involuntary psychiatric hospitalizations for people in prison in France. Future studies are needed to assess the impact of these judge-ordered discharge on patient's mental health, particularly for incarcerated patients.

Keywords: Forensic psychiatry; Involuntary hospitalization; Juge des libertés et de la détention; July 5th 2011 Act; Liberty and custody judge; Loi modifiée du 5 juillet 2011; Mainlevées judiciaires; Soins psychiatriques sans consentement; Specially equipped hospital units; Unité hospitalière spécialement aménagée.

MeSH terms

  • Commitment of Mentally Ill
  • France / epidemiology
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders* / therapy
  • Patient Discharge
  • Prisoners*